The nation’s blood supply is dangerously low, prompting the Red Cross to announce a national blood crisis for the first time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a decline in donor turnout, the cancellation of blood drives, and staffing challenges, leading to the worst blood shortage in more than a decade, the Red Cross said. Last year, the Red Cross saw a 34% decline in new donors.
“If the nation’s blood supply does not stabilize soon, life-saving blood may not be available for some patients when it is needed,” it warned in a joint statement with America’s Blood Centers and the Association for the Advancement of Blood and Biotherapies.
Blood centers across the U.S. have reported less than a one-day supply of some blood types, the statement added.
Hospitals need blood for surgeries, transplants, cancer treatments, and chronic illnesses, but the Red Cross says that during this historic shortage, there are days it can’t give hospitals all of the blood products they request. The shortage means doctors are being forced to make tough decisions about who should get blood and who needs to wait until there is more supply.
No 11-year-old should have to worry about the nation’s blood supply. But Dreylan Holmes does — he has sickle cell disease and needs blood transfusions.
“Sometimes I can’t do things when I’m hurting like sometimes I can’t get out of bed,” Holmes said of how the disease affects him.
He experienced that just before Thanksgiving. Holmes was severely anemic and needed a transfusion, but was forced to wait for two days because of limited blood supply at the hospital.
“It didn’t feel good having to wait when I was in pain,” he said.
His mother, Vesha Jamison, said the wait was “very scary.”
“That was actually the first time that we didn’t know when the blood was coming,” Jamison said.
Dr. Jennifer Andrews, the medical director of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center blood bank, said the hospital’s blood supply is dire. A lower blood supply means the hospital can’t care for patients in the same way, Andrews said.
“Nobody wakes up in the morning and plans on being the next trauma patient. So this literally could affect you or your family members and your loved ones,” she said.
Holmes encouraged those who are thinking about donating blood to do it.
“You should to help other people like me, so we could get to feeling better,” he said.